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gg                                                                                                              B. POLEVOI
emptied the tobacco from the cigarette into it, rolled it
and, after lighting up, inhaled with deep relish.
"Smoke? Of course I smoke," he said after another
draw. "Oh yes! Only, I've not seen any tobacco since the
Germans came. I smoke moss, and also dry spurge leaves,
yes!... As for how he rolled, ask him. I didn't see that.
The boys say that he rolled from his back to his belly and
from his belly to his back. You see, he had no strength to
crawl on his hands and knees. That's the kind of fellow
he is!"
Every now and again Degtyarenko jumped up to look
at his friend, whom the women were rolling in the grey
army blankets which the nurse had brought with her.
"Sit still, my boy, sit still. It's not a man's business to
put diapers on!" said Grandad. "Listen to what I'm tell-
ing you. And don't forget to tell it to one of your higher-
ups. That man did a big thing. You see what he is like
now. All of us, the whole collective farm, have been
nursing him for a week, and yet he can't move. But he
had the strength in him to crawl through our forest and
marshes. There aren't many that could do a thing like
that. Even the holy saints in their vigils didn't do any-
thing like it. What's standing on a pillar? Am I right?
I should say so! But listen, my boy, listen! ..."
The old man bent over towards Degtyarenko's ear,
tickling him with his soft, fluffy beard, and said in almost
a whisper:
"I hope, though, he isn't going to die. What do you
think? He got away from the Germans, but can you get
away from that fellow with the scythe? Nothing but skin
and bones—how he managed to crawl I can't imagine!
He must have wanted to get to his own people pretty bad,
eh? All^ the time he was unconscious he kept saying:
'airfield', 'airfield', and other words, and he also mentioned
Olga. Is there a girl at your place with that name?
Perhaps it's his wife. Are you listening to me? Did you
hear what I said? Hey, airman!"
^But Degtyarenko was not listening. He was trying to
picture this man, his comrade, who had seemed quite an
ordinary lad, crawling with frozen and fractured legs,
over the^ melting snow, through forest and marsh, crawl-
ing, rolling, to get away from the enemy and to reach